The Broadway version of Breakfast at Tiffany's, which opened on Wednesday at the Cort Theatre, does just about everything it can to separate itself from the beloved movie version starring Audrey Hepburn. Emilia Clarke does a serviceable job in the lead role of Holly Golightly, but the updated details fall short of winning over audiences. Clarke's depiction of Holly fails to embody sophistication as much as it draws attention to how phony her exterior is. As a result, the character comes across as more delusional than sympathetic.
Without a Holly that we want to root for, or find the least bit endearing, the audience is left uncertain about what or who the show is about. Taking on a central role is the narrator, simply known as Fred (Cory Michael Smith), whose sexuality emerges as the main topic of conversation. His relationship with Holy is complicated but also confusing. As he dreams of making it big in the cutthroat world of New York City publishing, Fred appears to be in over his head. It's not Holly that leads him astray, rather his dreams.
Whatever underlying themes director Sean Mathias and writer Richard Greenberg were going for are lost once Holly falls by the wayside. In a story so dominated by and known for its lead character and all of her hijinks, once you strip away her seductive qualities you're left with an odd array of high society's wacky side characters in search of purpose. And then there's the cat. A live cat comes and goes from Holly's arms, which is at once distracting and mesmerizing. It's hard to keep the focus on what's happening in the story and to the characters when a live cat is being cuddled on the stage. Making sense of it all grows even tougher once the cat is introduced to the mix.
This production misses the mark because it emphasizes the wrong sets of emotions. In a dark, noir-like setting, Holly gets wrapped up in the nightlife. Fred gets lost in the shuffle. But you never feel that either of them is comfortable in their own skin.